CSP’s MLB Award Tour – NL Pitcher of the Year: Kershaw’s One Man Show

Posted: November 17, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
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Awards season is in full swing, and today in the at-large world, National League will announce who’s bringing home its Cy Young for this time around. Here in CSP, we adhere to the Baseball Blogger’s Alliance awards cycle (because I’m a member and all) and hand out the Walter Johnson Award to each league’s top tosser.

I’ve covered why exactly Walter is such a big deal here before, when he measured out as not only the top pitcher, but the greatest player of all-time in the GOAT series last summer. Once again, he’s being paid appropriate honors again by another amazing performance by the game’s biggest “against all odds” performance of the year.

Yesterday, CSP handed down his namesake honors in the AL to Justin Verlander. Today I’m paying appropriate respects to the man who joined him winning his league’s pitching Triple Crown this year; making it the first time this had been achieved in both leagues since 1924.

Also in 1924, “Big Train” Johnson won 23 games, struck out 158 batters and notched a 2.72 ERA, becoming half of that until this season historic duo. Coincidence? Nah…

2011 National League Walter Johnson winner: Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

At only 23, Kershaw's one-man show put him on par with another legendary Dodgers lefty already.

It’s no surprise that Kershaw put together the type of year that he did this season; since his debut … years ago, it’s been known he was going to be this type of pitcher. However, he reached his best when everything else around him was at its worst. The Dodgers were never in the mix for any type of baseball after the required 162 games ended, and their year off the field was even worse. Yet, somehow all of this missed their most talented lefty since Sandy Koufax left the field 40 years ago, and he put together a dominant season with very little support.

As a matter of fact, he’s already chasing Koufax’s footsteps with his 2011 performance. After winning 21 games, with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts, he became the first Dodger since Sandy in ‘65 to win the NL pitching Triple Crown.  No pitcher in the game was a more polar opposite of his surroundings, and on nights were he took the bump. Yet like 2010 AL winner Felix Hernandez was for the Mariners, the Dodgers were as good as the best in the game when Kershaw took the bump. He went 5-0 against the defending World Series Champion Giants, and beat two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum four times in the process. This was his second consecutive year going over 200 strikeouts and he bettered his previous best win total by seven games. At only 23 years old, perhaps no player in the game has brighter days ahead for himself than Kershaw, regardless of what goes on around him.

Left in the Pen

2. Cliff Lee: If this is what an adjustment to a new league looks like, 2012 may belong to the now NL familiar Philly lefty. Lee’s first full season in the NL saw him go 17-8 with a Major League-leading six shutouts, three of which came consecutively. He even ran up a streak of 34 consecutive scoreless innings.

3. Roy Halladay: It takes a dominant performance on the level of what Kershaw did to keep Doc off of what is basically his to lose each year. A 19-6 record on a 2.35 ERA & a league-high eight complete games shows the best hurler in the game title still is his to lose.

4. Ian Kennedy: The biggest surprise team in the NL was lead by the biggest surprise on the hill. Kennedy was the first National Leaguer to reach 20 wins on the year and his 21 total tied for the lead. His .840 win percentage was unmatched.

5. Cole Hamels: And yet again, another Phillie. But a deserving one for what were efforts that easily up to the chops of his more respected rotation mates. Before being slowed by injuries, he was tough to touch. His 0.99 walks-plus-hits ratio was the second smallest in the NL.

Before I go today, lets hit that awards recap so far:

Connie Mack Award (Top Manager): Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks) & Joe Maddon (Rays)

Willie Mays Award (Top Rookies): Craig Kimbrel (Braves) & Jeremy Hellickson (Rays)

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitchers): Justin Verlander (Tigers) & Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Next: Goose Gossage Award for best Relievers

For anything else, as well as up to the second highlights on what I had for lunch and could have for dinner, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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